THE BLOG
02/07/2008 10:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Little Sunlight Please: The Super-Delegate Transparency Project

Between the battle over whether citizens of Michigan and Florida will see their delegates seated at the convention, and the uproar over what effect the super-delegates may have in this mother-of-all-races for the Democratic nomination, rank-and-file Democrats have plenty to be anxious about this primary season.

One of these problems was, quite simply, a very ill-conceived way to punish those states for moving up their primary dates. But, while I don't agree with the decision the DNC made in that instance, the more insidious and institutional of these un-democratic dealings is the shadowy super-delegate process.

The very real possibility of some kind of super-delegate debacle has got people on both sides of the Clinton-Obama divide all hopped up, with good reason. It brings into sharp focus the reality of how un-democratic our Democratic nomination process might be, and threatens the legitimacy of whichever candidate ends up winning.

If the super-delegates' votes count so much more than regular voters', it just seems fair that super-delegates should take the will of their constituents (if they currently represent some) into account when making their decisions.

Here's my question: Why are any super-delegates allowed to pledge anything before the primaries and caucuses actually start to take place? Part of the problem here is that back when Hillary Clinton was "inevitable," her campaign went around collecting early pledges. Some folks believe this could have had the effect of encouraging people like my U.S. representative, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey to play "inside baseball." For example, Sonoma State University political science professor David McCuan is surprised by Woolsey's alignment with Clinton, but attributes it to "realpolitik considerations by the congresswoman known for adherence to liberal principles."

So, imagine being the other candidates in the months leading up to the primaries, going around like beggars, with hats in hand, trying to live off Clinton's super-delegate scraps.

And then The People started voting last month, and it was suddenly a very different political landscape. Shouldn't our political process represent that different landscape? Shouldn't the people's will be legitimized rather than flouted?

It cuts both ways for me, too. Super-delegates should vote according to the will of the people-the popular vote -- whether Clinton won that district or state, or whether they fall into the Obama column. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just scrap the current super-deg count and say "Do-Over!!" Members of Congress should vote according to who won their districts. Senators and governors should vote how their states go, etc. Wouldn't it be nice if they all planned to act like John Knutson, Maine's Democratic Party Chairman? Not sure what you do about super-delegates who are just sort of free-floating party power-brokers. Anyway. Sadly, it ain't gonna happen.

But, at the very, very least, it should be a completely transparent process. Which is why the Super-Delegate Transparency Project is striking a chord with folks. It's a joint effort of my blog, Literary Outpost, OpenLeft, numerous other blogs and volunteers, and we're drawing off the fine work being done at DemConWatch.

We seek to gather the primary and caucus results (district by district), to date and going forward, and then to track those results against how super-delegates are currently pledged -- and how they ultimately vote. We'd like to be able to call on solid evidence, not hypotheticals, when we attempt to decipher what kind of impact these super-delegates end up having on the Democratic nomination process.

When it's all over, we'll know who was naughty and who was nice to the rank-and-file voters across this land.

Volunteers are signing up to help compile the district numbers, and identify super-delegates. There's plenty of work to be done, so if your skills and passion are a good match for this project, by all means: Please sign up to help!

More Americans (especially Democrats!) than ever before are standing up to have their voices and choices heard in this election year. A small, elite group should not be able to cancel out the will of the people.

Isn't that called oligarchy?